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The Week Junior Book Club

The Week Junior Book Club

The Week Junior Book Club selects one book every month for kids and families to read and discuss together. See our most recent pick below!


Welcome to our 2024 Summer of Reading campaign!

We asked 250 children from across the country what middle-grade books they enjoy most to create The 50 Books Kids Love Most list. We hope the picks will keep you excited to read all summer.

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May 2024 Book Club Pick

Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All

By Chanel Miller (Philomel Books)

When an angry customer storms into the laundromat owned by Magnolia’s parents, a bulletin board falls to the ground. Upset that the customer yelled at her Chinese American parents and told them they need to “understand English,” 10-year-old Magnolia discards the board, which had socks hanging from it that were missing their mates. The next day, she sees her new friend Iris. Iris cheers up Magnolia by telling her they should retrieve the socks and become “sock detectives” to figure out who the owners are. Day after day, they make matches and have fun doing it. Magnolia runs into a classmate and asks if she wants to help. Iris is jealous that Magnolia asked the classmate, and they have a fight. Later, a racist message is left at Iris’ family business, and she needs a friend more than ever. Will Magnolia and Iris be able to patch things up? At less than 150 pages, this friendship story is both short and heartfelt.

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Meet Chanel Miller

Listen to Chanel Miller talk about the new book Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All in a special video she made just for fans of The Week Junior.

 

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Talk about Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All

A creative story about finding your first real friend, Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All is brimming with humor yet doesn’t ignore racial injustices. Here are some questions to help you talk about the story with friends and family who have also read it:

  1. How do you think Magnolia’s parents should have responded to the angry customer? 
  2. Why does Magnolia’s attitude toward the family business change?  
  3. How could the first fight between Magnolia and Iris have been avoided? 
  4. Each chapter focuses on reuniting a sock with its owner. Which one is your favorite? 
  5. What do the friends have in common, despite being born in different parts of the US?  
  6. Do you think they will be friends after school starts? Why or why not? 
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April 2024 Book Club Pick

Ferris

By Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press)

The summer before fifth grade is turning out to be unforgettable for Ferris, who finds herself helping many of her family members out. Ferris’s 6-year-old sister, Pinky, ends up in police headquarters after trying to rob a bank! Her Uncle Ted moves into the basement to paint what he thinks will be a masterpiece about the history of the world. And Ferris’s beloved grandmother, who was recently diagnosed with a serious heart condition, sees a ghost who wants to be reunited with her husband. Ferris and Billy, her best friend since kindergarten, try to help the ghost. Together they gather the necessary equipment to illuminate an old chandelier in the dining room of Ferris’ house so the ghost’s husband has enough light to find his way back to her. The family hosts a fancy dinner for the occasion. Although the evening doesn’t go as planned—a raccoon turns up in the kitchen, and Pinky goes missing—love still prevails. The last chapter jumps nine months into the future and has a bittersweet ending. This lyrical story is fast to read and contains a mix of tender and funny moments. There’s not another book quite like it. 

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Meet Kate DiCamillo

Listen to Kate DiCamillo talk about the new book Ferris in a special video she made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about Ferris

Ferris is a family saga brimming with quirky characters. You’ll be on the edge of your seat to find out what happens at the end. These questions can help you talk about the story with friends and family who have also read it.

  1. Do Ferris and Pinky remind you of other sibling book characters? If so, who? 
  2. When do you believe the story takes place? What clues support your answer?  
  3. How do you imagine Pinky will be as an adult? 
  4. Of the many vocabulary words Ferris and Billy learned, which one did you like the most? 
  5. Do you think Ferris’s grandmother is right that “every good story is a love story.” Why or why not?  
  6. Do you believe in ghosts? Explain your answer. 
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March 2024 Book Club Pick

The First State of Being

By Erin Entrada Kelly (HarperCollins)

Ridge travels 200 years back in time to his favorite year in history—1999. To time travel, Ridge uses a device that hasn’t been tested, so he isn’t sure where he’ll land. He ends up in Delaware, where he meets Michael and Gibby, who live in the same apartment building. Ridge tells them that he is from the year 2199, but they don’t believe him. When a major world event that Ridge said is going to happen takes place, they change their mind. Michael wants Ridge to tell him about Y2K, a widespread computer glitch that is expected to cause problems on January 1, 2000. Michael is anxious about Y2K and has been stockpiling food and supplies so he and his mom can survive it. Ridge won’t answer Michael’s question because he doesn’t want to alter the future. He advises Michael to live in the First State of Being (the present). When Ridge is ready to return home to the future, his equipment doesn’t work. Will he be stuck in 1999? Thought-provoking and funny, this novel has mind-blowing twists. 

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Talk about The First State of Being

Set in the past and the future, The First State of Being explores time travel while weaving in themes of honesty, friendship, and belonging. These questions can help you talk about the book with friends and family who have also read it.

  1. What do you find most fascinating about Ridge’s life in the future? 
  2. Do you think Michael is a good person? Why or why not?   
  3. How did Michael’s outlook on life change after Ridge encouraged him to focus on the First State of Being? 
  4. If you knew something bad was going to happen in the future, would you warn others about it? Why or why not? 
  5. Do you like the way the book includes the past and future? Why or why not?   
  6. Would you rather be a 12-year-old in 1999 or now? Explain why. 
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50 Books for 50 States!

Read Across America Day, which is sponsored by the National Education Association, takes place on March 2 and kicks off National Reading Month. To celebrate the event, The Week Junior created a map featuring one middle-grade book set in each state. Now kids really can read across the USA!

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Take our Read Across America challenge!

Which books on the list have you read, and which do you want to explore next? We challenge you to read the book chosen for any state, then write a brief review. Have a photo taken of you with your book, then ask an adult to email your photo and review to hello@theweekjunior.com. Please be sure to include with your submission your first name, age, and the state where you live. It may appear in a future issue of the magazine!



February 2024 Book Club Pick

Barracoon: Adapted for Young Readers

By Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Jazzmen Lee-Johnson (Amistad Books for Young Readers)

This new version of a best-selling nonfiction book tells the story of Cudjo Lewis (born in about 1841 and died in 1935). Cudjo was the last known survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. He was illegally taken from his village in Africa, held in a barracoon (enclosure), and transported by ship to Alabama, where he was enslaved. After slavery was abolished in 1865, Cudjo remained in Alabama. When he was in his 80s, Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960), a famous writer, spent three months interviewing him. They picked peaches together as Cudjo shared his experiences of growing up in Africa and being an enslaved person in the US. Hurston turned the interviews into a book manuscript. She submitted it for publication many times, but it was rejected. In 2018, decades after her death, it was published. While this version is shorter and uses simpler words, the powerful voices of Cudjo and Hurston shine through.

    

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Meet Ibram X. Kendi

See Ibram X. Kendi talk about the new book Barracoon: Adapted for Young Readers in a special video he made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about Barracoon: Adapted for Young Readers

Barracoon: Adapted for Young Readers is a firsthand account about what it was like to be an enslaved person and to face racism after being freed. These questions can help you talk about the book with friends and family who have also read it.

  1. What surprised you the most about Cudjo’s life? 
  2. Cudjo shares what his birth name in Africa was. Why do you think this was important?  
  3. Did you like that Cudjo’s own words, which can be difficult to read, were included? Why or why not? 
  4. How is Cudjo’s heart still in Africa even though he never returned? 
  5. Why do you think the original version of this book didn’t get published until nearly 80 years after it was written?  
  6. If you met Cudjo, what would you tell him about the world today? 
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January 2024 Book Club Pick
The Misfits: A Royal Conundrum

By Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat (Random House Children’s Books)

Olive has a bad feeling about the boarding school her parents decide she will attend until they return from a long business trip. The school, located on an island off the coast of San Francisco, California, was once a prison. Olive takes a strange test, called a “conundrum,” to see what classes she’ll take. After passing the test, she is one of five students selected for spy training, but she is shocked to learn that the school is hiding a secret spy operation. Olive and her new friends, including tech-wizard Philomena and language expert Theo, spend months practicing martial arts and other skills. On the night of the school’s fundraiser, they’re called into action after a famous woman’s gemstone necklace is stolen. Using cool gadgets, like a spray that can immediately make someone fall asleep, they set out to crack the case. This illustrated novel, the first of a new series, is filled with red herrings (misleading clues) and has a thrilling, twisty ending.

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Meet Lisa Yee

See Lisa Yee talk about her new book The Misfits: A Royal Conundrum in a special video she made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about The Misfits: A Royal Conundrum

A friendship story and an adventure rolled into one, The Misfits: A Royal Conundrum is action-packed and emotional. These questions can help you talk about the book with friends and family who have also read it.

  1. How do you think changing schools was good for Olive?
  2. Did you notice any foreshadowing (a hint at what may come next) in the story? If so, give an example.
  3. Which spy gadget do you wish you had in real life? How would you use it?
  4. What friendship mistakes do the characters make?
  5. Did you correctly guess who stole the necklace? If so, what clues helped you figure it out? If not, who did you think was the culprit?
  6. Which character would you most want to be your friend? Why?
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December 2023 Book Club Pick
Which Way to Anywhere

By Cressida Cowell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Twins K2 and Izzabird are trying to keep their magical powers a secret from their two stepsiblings, Theo and Mabel, whom they bicker with. K2 and Izzabird’s mother insists they not tell anyone that they come from a line of magical explorers. K2 doesn’t even realize his own powers. The maps of imaginary worlds he draws are actually real and part of an “Alternative Atlas” that shows how to travel between worlds. A pirate, who learns that one of them can create the maps, kidnaps Annipeck, the baby sister all four kids share. Setting aside their squabbles, the four kids vow to rescue Annipeck. They travel from Earth to the planet Excelsiar, a terrifying place where man-eating plants can smell fear and toothbrushes come alive. Will they be able to bring their sister home? This thrilling novel is the first of a new series from the author who wrote the best-selling How to Train Your Dragon series. At more than 500 pages, this fast-paced novel is packed with illustrations and ends on a cliff-hanger.

 

 

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Meet Cressida Cowell

See Cressida Cowell talk about her new book Which Way to Anywhere in a special video she made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about Which Way to Anywhere

Which Way to Anywhere is a blend of fantasy and science fiction that’s about what it means to be a family. These questions can help you talk about the book with others who have read it:

  1. How does the twins’ relationship with their step-siblings change as the story progresses?
  2. Why do you think K2 doesn’t think he’s a worthy hero?
  3. What piece of art in the story did you like the most?
  4. Which character is the most imaginative?
  5. Did you like the way the narrator addresses the reader directly in some parts? Why or why not?
  6. Izzabird has a magical gift that isn’t revealed in the book. What do you think it could be?
  7. What does this book have in common with How to Train Your Dragon?
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November 2023 Book Club Pick
Hidden Truths

By Elly Swartz (Delacorte Press)

After years of hearing “you’re good for a girl, but not good enough to make the squad,” Dani lands a spot on her school’s baseball team. The sixth-grader is on cloud nine after her first team meeting. Then everything changes when a fire breaks out while on a camping trip with her best friend and neighbor, Eric. He pulls Dani to safety, but her leg and shoulder are badly hurt. At the hospital, Dani learns that she won’t be able to play baseball and will need to use a wheelchair until her body heals. At first, everyone thinks Eric is a hero for saving Dani’s life. Later on, Eric, who has a disorder that interferes with his ability to concentrate, confesses that he may have caused the fire by forgetting to turn off the stove. Dani lashes out at Eric and becomes friends with Meadow, a girl whose sister is in the hospital recovering from an accident. Meadow posts a video suggesting Eric caused the accident. But the whole truth hasn’t come out yet. In this nail-biting story that’s full of surprises, chapters alternate between the perspectives of Dani and Eric.

 

 

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Meet Elly Swartz

See Elly Swartz talk about her new book Hidden Truths in a special video she made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about Hidden Truths

Hidden Truths gives readers a lot to think about when it comes to making mistakes, honesty, and forgiveness. These questions can help you talk about the book with others who have read it:

  1. Do you think Dani would have reacted differently to Eric’s confession if he had told her sooner? Why or why not?
  2. What would you say is the difference between lying and hiding the truth?
  3. Do you have more empathy for Dani or Eric? Explain your answer.
  4. How did Dani let Eric down as a friend?
  5. What kinds of bullying are portrayed in the story?
  6. Do you think Dani and Meadow’s friendship will last? Why or why not?
  7. Which of the story’s many twists surprised you the most and why?
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October 2023 Book Club Pick
Cut Loose!

By Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz (Amulet Books)

After Nat played a lead role in the musical Wicked at camp, she thought she’d have to wait until next summer to be onstage again. But now her new middle school is putting on the musical Footloose. She decides she wants to audition for the role of Ariel, the main female character. The school is also planning to enter the show in a new theater competition, and the finalists will get to perform on Broadway! Trouble is, Footloose includes many dance numbers. Nat uses a wheelchair, and she’s worried that the complicated choreography may prevent her from landing the role. She knows she has to wow the director at the audition and plans to sing a duet with her friend Malik. Their friend Hudson helps them work on dance moves. Even though Malik barely makes it to the theater in time for the audition, he and Nat nail their performance. They make the cast, and Nat gets Ariel! But the rehearsals are full of drama (not the good kind), and Nat is tested in ways she never would have imagined. Packed with Broadway references, this uplifting book is the sequel to The Chance to Fly

 

 

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Meet Ali Stroker

See Ali Stroker talk about her new book Cut Loose! in a special video she made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about Cut Loose!

Cut Loose! explores the challenges of middle school friendships and going after your dreams. These questions can help you talk about the book with friends and family who have also read it:

  1. Some of Nat’s castmates think she landed the part of Ariel because of her disability. What’s your take?
  2. Do you think Hudson should have told Nat right away that he felt left out?
  3. After reading this book, what have you learned about challenges people who use wheelchairs may face?
  4. In what way did some of the adult characters in this book display poor behavior?
  5. Does this book inspire you in any way? If so, how?
  6. Are you satisfied with the ending? Why or why not?
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September 2023 Book Club Pick
Wrecker

By Carl Hiaasen (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

On his way home from fishing, Wrecker spots a group of men on a speedboat that is stuck in a sandbar off the coast of Key West. The leader, who calls himself Silver Mustache, asks Wrecker if he will use his boat to tow theirs. But the speedboat is too heavy. Silver Mustache refuses Wrecker’s offer to call the Coast Guard for help. Believing they’re smugglers, Wrecker hopes to never see Silver Mustache again, but then Silver Mustache turns up in a graveyard where Wrecker works. Days later, Wrecker and his friend go fishing and discover that Silver Mustache’s boat has sunk. They dive in to examine the boat and discover the loot—it’s not what they imagined. Will Wrecker be able to free himself from Silver Mustache? With subplots about the pandemic, racism, and the environment, this book is more complex than the author’s Newbery Honor–winning Hoot. Ages 12 and up 

 

 

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Meet Carl Hiaasen

See Carl Hiaasen talk about his new book Wrecker in a special video he made just for fans of The Week Junior.

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Talk about Wrecker

Packed with twists, thrills, and a big cast of characters, Wrecker gives you a lot to talk about with friends and family who have also read the book. Here are some questions to get the conversation rolling:

  1. Would you have accepted money from Silver Mustache? Why or why not?
  2. What positive and negative qualities does Wrecker have?
  3. How does the author describe Key West, Florida?
  4. What adult character do you like the most? Why?/li>
  5. Which parts of the book do you think are funny?
  6. Why do you think the author included facts and history about the Florida Keys in the fictional storyline?
  7. What is the main idea of the environmental subplot? Do you agree with it or not?
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August 2023 Book Club Pick
No One Leaves the Castle

By Christopher Healy (Walden Pond Press)

When a baron’s priceless emerald heirloom goes missing, his butler hires the Lilac to track it down. The butler thinks the Lilac is a famous bounty hunter, but she’s really the 14-year-old sister of Prince Charming. The Lilac locates a wizard who may have something to do with the crime. The heirloom is mysteriously returned, and everyone is invited to stay at the baron’s mansion for dinner. Not long after, the heirloom disappears again and one of the dinner party guests turns up dead. The Lilac must figure out which of the 12 suspects stole the heirloom and killed the guest. This mystery is chock full of hidden agendas, twists, and red herrings that will keep kids guessing until the last chapter.

 

 

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Meet Christopher Healy

See Christopher Healy talk about his new book No One Leaves the Castle in a special video he made just for The Week Junior.

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Talk about No One Leaves the Castle

Loaded with surprising twists, No One Leaves the Castle is fun to discuss with family and friends who have also read the book. Here are some questions to get the conversation started.

  1. Who did you think the culprit was going to be and why?
  2. Did any clues throw you off the right track? If so, which ones?
  3. What magical element did you think was the most clever?
  4. How do you think the Lilac grows as a person throughout the story?
  5. Did you like the voice of the narrator? Why or why not?
  6. Which character’s secret surprised you the most and why?
  7. Why do you think the author included humor in the book?
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The Week Junior’s Summer of Reading campaign has begun! Click here for our list of the 50 Books Kids Love Most, which we created based on the suggestions of more than 150 kids from across the country. Find out how to participate in our reading challenge to win prizes and get to know our Author Ambassadors.

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June 2023 Book Club Pick
Lei and the Fire Goddess

By Malia Maunakea (Penguin Workshop)

Every summer, Anna travels from her home in Colorado to spend a few weeks with her grandmother, who lives in a remote village in Hawaii. Her grandmother believes in Hawaiian curses, but 12-year-old Anna doesn’t. On a walk in the forest with her friend Kaipo, Anna picks a special type of flower that her grandmother has warned her will upset Pele, the fire goddess. To Anna’s surprise, removing the flower triggers an earthquake and sets off a volcanic eruption. Then a giant hawk kidnaps Kaipo. Could her grandmother have been right all along, or is what happened a coincidence? Anna goes on the adventure of a lifetime as she tries to rescue Kaipo and save her grandmother’s house from a path of lava. Talking animals, shape-shifting, and a big family secret are all part of the action. Plus, there are a couple of huge twists involving the main characters. If you like reading about mythology, you won’t be able to put this book down. You’ll get a glimpse into Hawaiian culture, myths, legends, and food through the book’s many characters.

 

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Meet Malia Maunakea

See Malia Maunakea talk about her new book Lei and the Fire Goddess in a special video she made just for The Week Junior.

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Talk about Lei and the Fire Goddess

From complex characters to surprising twists, there’s a lot to talk about with friends and family who have also read this fantasy novel. Use these questions to kick off your conversation.

  1. Do you think Anna should have to go visit her grandmother in Hawaii every summer? Why or why not?
  2. What strategies could Anna use to feel more confident about her heritage around her classmates?
  3. How could Anna be a better friend to Kaipo?
  4. Did this book remind you of any other stories you’ve read? If so, which ones?
  5. What mystical element of the story appeals to you the most?
  6. Were you surprised by Pele’s behavior? Why or why not?
  7. How does Anna grow as a person in the story?
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May 2023 Book Club Pick
The One and Only Ruby

By Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao (Harper)

Ruby, a young elephant, has a secret: She hates her tusks. For the other elephants who live at a wildlife sanctuary, tusks are a big deal. They even hold a Tuskday ceremony when a little elephant’s tusks come in. But Ruby hides when it’s time to practice for the ceremony. Tusks are the reason her mom is no longer alive. Ruby was born in the African savanna, and poachers killed her mom so they could get her tusks and sell them. (Elephant tusks are made of ivory, a valuable material.) For the first time, Ruby tells her animal friends, Ivan and Bob, exactly what happened during her first few weeks of life. Talking about her past helps Ruby embrace her future. Will she be able to go through with the ceremony? While this story is the third title in the One and Only Ivan series, you don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it. You may feel sad reading about Ruby’s past, but there are plenty of jokes to lighten the mood. The illustrations that depict the body language of the elephants are fascinating.

 

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Meet Katherine Applegate

Hear Katherine Applegate talk about her new book The One and Only Ruby in a special video she made just for The Week Junior.

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Talk about The One and Only Ruby

Written in first person from the point of view of a young elephant, this emotional story lends itself to discussion with friends and family who have also read the book. Here are some questions to help get your book club conversation started.

  1. Should Ruby have to attend the tusk ceremony? Why or why not?
  2. What did you learn about Ruby from her body language?
  3. How is Ruby’s personality different from Ivan’s?
  4. What do you think was the story’s turning point?
  5. How have the hardships in Ruby’s life made her stronger?
  6. What do you think are the top challenges that elephants face?
  7. How did this book make you feel?
  8. Is this your favorite book in the series? Why or why not?
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